With the first blows of Hurricane Florence being felt along the East Coast, some local officials have begun describing the massive storm in apocalyptic terms.
Though wind speeds have decreased since it began rotating deep in the Atlantic Ocean, experts say a storm surge followed by heavy rains from the slow-moving hurricane could spell disaster for residents and property along its path.
Now a Category 1 hurricane, wind gusts in Wilmington, North Carolina, topped 100 mph early Friday. That marks the city’s strongest recorded wind in 60 years.
In an ABC News interview, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous predicted the fallout would be “epic” in scale.
“I see a biblical proportion flood event that’s going to occur,” he said. “I see the beach communities being inundated with water and destruction that will be pretty, pretty epic in nature.”
As NBC News reported, power was out for nearly 500,000 customers in the affected area.
While North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed no fatalities had been reported in connection with the storm, he cautioned that the state would continue dealing with dangerous conditions for some time.
“This is an uninvited brute that just won’t leave,” he said.
One North Carolina city had already received about 150 reports of locals in need of rescue as of Thursday night.
Despite the fact that New Bern had been under a mandatory evacuation order since Tuesday, officials tweeted that emergency rescue teams had assembled in an attempt to reach those trapped after staying behind.
According to one Craven County official, the risks associated with attempting to stick it out through the aftermath of the storm are numerous and severe.
“I would say that certain areas of New Bern are very desperate,” Amber Parker said. “There are people that can be trapped in water, in vehicles, on roofs. That’s just the situation for anyone.”
Though rescue teams had been assembled, several areas of town were inaccessible due to flooding as well as fallen trees and power lines.
“They just have to wait until the weather conditions permit them to make it here safely,” Parker said. “I don’t have the follow-up information on all of the calls.”
In some cases, the rescue operation relies on neighbor helping neighbor, she said.
“There are some that I know we have made it to and others where they’ve been rescued by other agencies or individuals — private citizens who have rescued some people.”
New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw echoed the concerns of other local officials.
“It’s very unsafe,” she said. “I immediately spoke with the police chief and we decided we need a 24-hour curfew.” (For more from the author of “North Carolina Police Chief Warns: ‘I See a Biblical Proportion Flood Event’” please click HERE)